Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Student Unrest

News outlets are prioritizing  student riots in the U.S., Canada and Europe.  Brings back some memories and forced me to examine my perspective.  One concession is that violent protests do get attention.  Even many liberals are upset, but perhaps not as much as conservatives.  I like to think I am progressive, but feel a bit pushed.

As a teenager and young adult Israel was perceived as under assault  and doing many good things.  A little later  I became related to Muslims and had opened my mind to more information.  The more information pointed to different perspectives.  The Mid East has all my life seemed violent, but I had other priorities.

As always there have been agitators and opportunists.  Before October 7th the big news for me was the aggression of Russia against Ukraine and I was conscious of a horrible situation in Sudan.  Since then attention has been diverted to the outrages of Homas.  Truly there have been outrages and continue to be.  In America for some reason Donald Trump, deservedly out of office stirred up political support for the Russians and tried to prevent American support for the Ukrainians.  At the same time China and Iran lent military aid to Russia.  So those true enemies of democracy were pleased that attention was diverted.  Are they evil enough and smart enough to have engineered such a diversion?  

Would they welcome student protests?  Would they want to stir things up a bit?  At this stage my suspicions have nothing to justify them.  It is well known that non students have joined the protests.  Some share the concerns, others like the disruptions for their own reasons.

Joe Biden has noted that settlers have been provoking.  He even went so far to suggest a two state solution would be a goal.  The newscasts seemed fixed on how authorities can cope with the protest violence with a few reminders that hostages are still at risk. 

A much expressed concern is anti-Semitism.  It is likely that some bigots will use this opportunity to express their bigotry while many have also expressed Islamaphobia.  Prejudice is a human trait and can be amplified under stress.  Undoubtedly anti-Semitism is part of these protests, but should not be allowed to avoid the real issues.  

On October 9th I wrote a blog and since then the situation has worsened.  My thoughts then:

I don't know all the reasoning that has set some students at odds with authorities, but I have a few sympathetic thoughts .  There is greater awareness that Palestinians are not free.  Students are woke to the idea that Palestine is also under assault. There is distrust and fear on both sides.  The way to power has been to keep the Arabs under stiff control.  Benjamin Netanyahu is by no means the most adamant about not allowing a two state solution.  Netanyahu is a smart statesman who was able to negotiate with other parties to construct a coalition, but realizes that concessions to the Arabs could break the coalition.  I don't really understand how his corruption has created a desire for an election.  I would fear who would replace him, most likely someone even more hard line.  

The White House is conscious that some concessions need to be made for the non terrorist Arabs, but are restricted not just by legalities, but by diplomatic conventions.  Netanyahu fears what will happen when the conflict ends.  Many Israelis think the only solution is to get rid of all the Palestinians.

The protesters feel more must be done.  Sending military aid only supports abusers and will lead to unnecessary deaths.  Several years ago there was a movement to boycott Israel and a counter movement against that.  Read more:   In fact there are a lot of American investments in Israel including from universities and that is one of the tools students are wanting to use.

Hamas is the result of inaction and abuse.  They have support and power because the Palestinian cause has been ignored and abused.  Violence was integral to building Israel.  Netanyahu is using the violence to cling to power

As a student I read and was influenced by what would be considered "radical" opinions but was too locked into the status quo.  I do remember doing some minor protesting when the Chancellor of the University of Guelph, a former Premier of Ontario said something that offended our student president.  I don't remember what it was about and a year or so later I accepted my degree from this same person.  Getting a job and settling down proved more of a challenge.  I learned politics is very manipulative, but found little to do about it.

I agree hate speech should be illegal.  At the same time politicians of all sorts have been very careful to avoid speaking many truths.  Right now Trump is doing what he can to stir up hatred and complaining about how a gag order restricts his free speech.  Freedom of speech is essential, but to be successful requires open minds on all sides.

My hope is that student protests will help improve things in the long run.  Thinking back to the Vietnam War (had met one draft dodger) student protests were one factor in making Republicans realize the war should be ended. 

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